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Family Sea-Kayaking in Alaska

August, 2006

I’ve been a lot of stunning places, but there are a few that can only be described as “magical”.  Yosemite after an early spring snow, padding through the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon, and floating next to the glaciers in Glacier Bay on a clear day are magic moments.

Note that I didn’t fly the family to Alaska.  Flying to Alaska is on the list of things to do, but most likely when the kids have left for college and I have more time.  While flying to adventure saves time in the western states, it adds a couple of days when going to Alaska, and while it may be fun for the pilot it can be pretty boring for passengers.  I included this trip to round out the family-friendly adventure category.

Sea kayaking in Glacier Bay is a wonderful family activity, especially because you can use double kayaks so you can have your child right in front of you the entire time.  I have no idea why more families interested in outdoor adventure don’t head up to Glacier.   After thinking about it some more, I have to admit there is a slight chance of having your child eaten by a grizzly bear, and a much better chance of spending significant time cold and wet in a drizzling rain, so there are a couple of pretty good reasons why some families may not elect to go.  We were lucky in that none of us were eaten and we ended up with more sunshine than is normal.

One of the coolest things about the trip is that you take a national park tour boat and they stick your kayaks on the bow.  At some point they announce to the passengers that they have to make a quick stop and then they ram the boat into the soft gravel of a beach.  You get off, pull down your kayaks and gear, and then wave to all the passengers (many of whom think you’ll get eaten by grizzly bears) as they motor away.  At the end of the trip, six days later, you picked up in another spot (pre-arranged) so you can do a one-way tour through Glacier Bay.

The glaciers are stunning and the wildlife is unbelievable with whales, bears, bald eagles and harbor seals, but it is a lot of work.  In order not to get eaten, you have to keep all food in bear canisters and you have to walk down the beach from your camp to cook. If its raining that is no fun.  However there is plenty of daylight, and one of the best things I remember is hanging out on the beach at 11:00 at night with my family as the long dusk moved into night.

Paddling through ice to John Hopkins glacier

There is a time to paddle and time to...not

11:00 pm sunset

Betsy listening to opera on the paddle to John Hopkins glacier

Old enough to appreciate a peaceful moment

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May, 2010 12:22 pm

    Hi, You have done an outstanding job with your site. Your Alaska trip looks like a good one. Kayaking gets you up front,close. I want to encourage you to fly to Alaska and plan to spend several weeks flying around the state. I flew 11 years in Alaska with Kodiak Airways. (now long gone) Grumman Goose, Widgeon, Super Widgeon, C180 & Super Cub on floats. In 1976 I picked up a Super Widgeon from Dean Franklyn in Miami and, with my wife and two daughters, did a 5 day trip to Anchorage. Great experience for my teenage girls who took turns in the right seat navagating. Only flew IFR between Fort Nelson and Whitehorse becuase of a nasty storm over the mountains. Balance was VFR in better weather. Great viewing of middle America and Central and Western Canada. With today’s GPS one can travel a more direct route though lots of folks like to follow the road. I’m now retired and live south of you in Turlock. I too have written aviation stories (with photos) mostly about flying experiences in Alaska and other places in the world I flew. The easy way to find my site is to go to search and type Bob Leonard, Pilot. Click on the HOMEPAGE and you are there. Stories are divided by area’s of the world.
    Again, ‘Well Done’ on your site which I find most interesting.
    Cheers,
    Bob Leonard

    • May, 2010 10:05 pm

      Bob,

      You are right. My web site will remain unfinished until there is a post on flying to Alaska. I’ll get there. I visited your website and there are some fabulous stories there. I worked in Alaska a few summers and flew in a goose to get in and out – what a plane. – Ney

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